When I popped home to the UK in November, London was already in full festive swing with Christmas trees, festive songs and neon lights galore. Sent back with a Cadbury’s chocolate advent calendar adorned with an oversized Santa, I was ready to start the Christmas season with a bang.
Yet once back home across the pond, I realized Paris hadn’t joined in on the fun yet. I was ready to start in on my advent calendar and temperatures were plunging, but where were all those tell tale signs that our favorite mid-winter festival was fast approaching?
This set me thinking. What exactly is a Parisian Christmas? What happens in the cold windy days leading up to the big event? I set out on a mission to discover the seasonal delights that France’s most romantic city had to offer.
Although the Christmas shopping frenzy begins relatively late in Paris (thankfully, shops only step into gear at the end of November), once it gets going, it really gets going. Stores go all out with light shows and designer-crafted window displays – always tasteful, bien sur. First stop? Paris’s iconic department stores. Whilst London has toy-filled Hamleys and elegant Harrods, Paris showcases its trademark sophistication with Les Galleries Lafayette and the neighbouring Printemps, where Karl Lagerfeld’s touch marks this year’s displays: think Chanel-clad rock ‘n’ roll dolls strumming their electric guitars and 20m Christmas trees.
Conclusion: a little slow off the starting blocks, but Paris comes through in true style.
Printemps: 64, bd Haussmann, metro Havre Chaumartin
Galleries Lafayette: 40, bd Haussmann, metro Chausee d’Antin – Fayette
December in Paris wouldn’t be complete without a good dose of Christmas markets. The stalls clustered along the Champs Elysees are beautifully situated (one of the most luxurious streets in the world all lit up with golden lights – what more could you want!) with the roaring traffic detracting only a little from the romantic scene. I highly recommended warming up with some mulled wine, nibbling on roasted chestnuts (a French Christmas favorite) and finishing it all off with a chocolate dipped apple.
Conclusion: Christmas markets are a key Parisian Christmas ingredient. They may not be big or overly original, but they are brimming with seasonal good cheer (with a little help from the steaming vin chaud).
November 19 – January 2, 2012, Avenue des Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde ( Metro Champs Elysées-Clemenceau or Concorde)
For a full list of Paris’ neighborhood Christmas Markets, click here
More Christmassy excitement
What else does Paris have store for Christmas-lovers? Having diligently wandered the streets, I’ve definitely had my festive fix for 2011. My highlights include:
– The illuminated Ferris Wheel at the Place de la Concorde
– The elegant lights in the cobbled rue Montorgueil
– The giant Christmas tree outside Notre Dame cathedral
– The temporary ice skating at Hotel de Ville
Although Christmas cheer may hit the French capital a little late, Parisians certainly know how to do the festive run-up with taste. If we’ve missed anything, please drop us a comment with your favourite Paris Christmas moments below!
Wherever you are this Christmas, I wish you all a joyeux Noël!
- The NY Times has some great tips on what to do in Paris on Christmas Day
- Here’s a funny post on the French love for fake Christmas trees… truly inexplicable.
- Paris By Mouth has a great list of restaurant recommendations open for Christmas in Paris